So, Wrestlemania, the WWE's Super Bowl, is coming to Jerryworld this weekend. That means that Dallas will have a few visitors, who will spend a little money and probably have a pretty good time. As is customary with these sort of events at Arlington's crown jewel, it also means that The Dallas Morning News will blithely repeat some number from the organizer of the event about the incredible economic impact the Super Bowl, Final Four, Cotton Bowl, College Football Playoff, American Country Music Awards or, in this case, Wrestlemania, will have on Dallas/Fort Worth.
"John Saboor, executive vice president of special events for WWE, expects WrestleMania’s economic impact for North Texas to meet or exceed last year’s total of $139 million, through food and drink sales, hotel stays and tickets at other local attractions," Hannah Wise wrote on Friday, before moving on to touting the events WWE will put on in Dallas and Arlington over the coming week.
Sports economists, however, universally agree that big sporting events do little to nothing for the local economy.
"Sports do not generate economic growth; they don't really generate jobs," Dave Berri, former president of the North American Association of Sports Economists, told us last year during a conversation about the College Football Playoff. "There's a reason why an event doesn't do that. If you think about hosting a major event in a town, you bring in these tourists who come in. The problem is, when they show up, a whole bunch of other people who were probably going to be spending money that weekend or that day, they're not going to come that day. There's going to be a ton of traffic and they're all going to stay home."
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It's called the substitution effect. Those in town for Wrestlemania aren't spending money that otherwise wouldn't be spent in Dallas. Largely, they're spending money that'd be spent here anyway, at the expense of other consumers. The extra money that does come in (people on vacation do usually spend more per day than locals) isn't always being put back into the the local economy either.
"Imagine an airplane landing at an airport and everyone gets out and gives each other a million bucks, then gets back on the plane. That's $200 million in economic activity, but it's not any benefit to the local economy," Holy Cross professor Victor Matheson told Sports on Earth in 2014.
Even if you stipulate that the numbers, which Berri said are never checked after events, provided by WWE are correct, $140 million would leave only the smallest mark on the DFW economy. DFW's 2014 GDP was $447 billion. $140 million is less than 0.3 percent of that. It just isn't a big deal, even if the projections were true. Still, as long as the Morning News insists on repeating the claims of organizers hell-bent on getting cities to woo their events, the Observer will keep pointing out why they're full of, to put it mildly, beans.